Urgent need for Doha trade pact: US, Brazil

Sao Paulo, March 11:

Brazil and the United States emphasized Saturday the need to achieve an agreement in World Trade Organization negotiations in the first half of 2007.

One day after US president George W Bush held talks with his Brazilian counterpart Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, US Trade Representative Susan Schwab and Brazilian Minister of Foreign Affairs Celso Amorim stressed the urgency of reaching a deal on a new global trade regime in the Doha round of negotiations.

“There is a real sense of urgency,” Schwab said after a two-hour meeting with Amorim. “We’re cautiously optimistic that we will be able to reach a breakthrough and have a success. But we know we have a lot of work ahead of us.”

Schwab warned that “Doha fatigue” could set in “after a few months” and that negotiators could lose a window of opportunity to seal a deal on the broad outlines of a new trade pact.

“If we fail to get a breakthrough in this window we do risk the future of the Doha round,” she said. “I believe we are very close” to an agreement, said Amorim.

“The most important progress must be realized during this half-year.” The Doha round of the WTO talks ground to a halt in July.

The European Union and United States have been unable to agree on the size of cuts in agriculture subsidies and tariffs protecting their farm industries, while rich and poor countries are at loggerheads over trade in industrial goods and services.

Speaking in Uruguay Saturday, Bush said he was “optimistic” a deal could be achieved.

“The United States is fully prepared to reduce agricultural subsidies. We just want to make sure there is market access for our products,” he said at Estancia Anchorena, the ranch of Uruguay President Tebare Vazquez.